In our EBACE FBO Special Report we featured the preparations for the Brazilian Football World Cup. At the time there was only a few weeks to go to the games and the Brazilian authorities had yet to declare how many slots they were going to make available to business aircraft, causing some trepidation in the industry.
However, the Brazilian operator Lider, profiled in that report, assured EVA that the Brazilian FBOs and the Brazilian authorities would have everything sorted out by the time the games started on 12 June and that the 2014 Football World Cup would turn out to be an excellent event. Cynthia de Oliveira, Operations Director at Lider Aviação, the largest FBO operator in Brazil with an FBO at every one of the 12 host city airports, pointed out at the time that Brazil had already benefitted from two “dress rehearsals” prior to the World Cup in the shape of the Confederation Cup, the traditional pre-cursor to the World Cup, held in the host country a year before the main event, and the big sustainability conference, Rio +20, held in Rio de Janeiro on 20-22 June 2012. Both of those went well and created a substantial influx of private jet traffic, so that experience, plus intensive preparations by Lider and others on the ground underpinned her confidence that the World Cup would go smoothly as far as business aviation was concerned.
In fact, as Flavia Ribas, Vice President of Operations for Colt International’s São Paulo office in Brazil, notes, everything really was “all right on the night”! “What we saw from our trip handling and trip support people was that the Football World Cup actually went incredibly well. We had great flight movements from here in the US and the arrivals in Brazil and movements in country between the games venues all went smoothly, considering the intensity of the event. Clearing customs and getting the documentation sorted out for international flights to Brazil took longer than usual because of the demand pressure in the run up to the event, but we had no major problems. All our customers got to the games and to the cities that they planned to reach.”
Jeff Briand, Senior VP of International Trip Support at Colt’s Houston headquarters adds: “We were able to get slots for our customers very close to the times that they wanted. Maybe we didn’t get exactly the time slot that every customer wanted, but people understood the pressure the Brazilian authorities were under and we had no big delays or major complaints. There was noticeably more pressure for the World Cup final, but even there we had no major issues. Minor delays at such a major event are to be expected and the key in these matters is to manage the client’s expectations so that they know what is likely to happen and that any delays will be temporary,” he says.
Briand points out that to conclude a major event on this scale successfully takes sustained preparation and planning. “We had a full team involved in planning for the Football World Cup for more than a year before the games started. We had meetings with the authorities and we ran a series of training programs for our own staff. We put agents in place to travel to the smaller airports in Brazil where they do not have much local support, so that our clients could stay in touch and get the help they require,” he comments.
Ribas adds that where there were some complaints, these tended to come from regular customers who were flying to Brazil anyway on business, and who suddenly found themselves in a slot regulated world, competing for landing and take-off slots with private jets bringing in people to watch the matches. “A few people, despite all our briefings and all the advanced warning we sent out and also placed on our web site, still thought it would be business as usual in Brazil during the World Cup, and if you thought that, some disappointment was perhaps inevitable,” she comments.
All the information people needed prior to attending this major event was available for free from Colt’s special purpose World Cup web site built specifically for the event, and the site attracted plenty of traffic. “We design special purpose information sites for major events. In all we probably saw twice as many people using our special event web site on this occasion, which was gratifying,” Briand adds.
He points out that Colt used Tam as its FBO provider in Brazil and they proved to be very helpful. One of the pleasant surprises of the whole Brazilian World Cup experience was that there was no real signs of the violent protests that had rocked the country prior to the World Cup. “We were a little concerned about security. However, we were delighted to be able to report that there wasn’t a single security incident that we were aware of or that impacted our customers,” Briand notes.
While the Football World Cup is big news around the world, Superbowl is the event that gets many American hearts beating faster. This year’s Superbowl, which saw the Denver Broncos getting crushed by the Seattle Seahawks, was held in the MetLife stadium in New Jersey. The event had private jets flying in to New York area FBOs from all over the US. However, US trip planners and the FBOs at Teterboro are well accustomed to handling big occasions and things generally go well, be the event a presidential inauguration, a NASCAR meet or, indeed, Superbowl.
Betsy Wines, VP Customer Service and Human Resources at Meridian, the award winning full-service private aviation company based at Teterboro Airport, the closest business aviation airport to New York City, points out that ironically, dealing with Superbowl in particular this year actually turned out to be easier for her and her team than dealing with ordinary peak business periods such as the post-Labor Day weeks when the U.S. Open and Fashion Week are occurring.
“Things were tremendously well organised during Superbowl. Teterboro is normally a slot free airport but during Superbowl the airport authorities decided to impose a reservation system, fearing that the airport could be swamped by private jets. This actually made things a great deal easier for us. During any busy period outside of a special event like Superbowl, Meridian will handle 100 or more arrivals and departures, and while probably 80% of our clients give us some indication when they will be landing, some you only find out about when their aircraft is taxiing to our FBO ramp,” Wines comments.
A reservation system at least has the merit of allowing staff to solve all the usual limousine or taxi transfers to hotels or into the city, plus room bookings for clients. The downside is that clients who were travelling to Teterboro Airport on normal business during Superbowl may have been disconcerted to find that they are suddenly faced with a slot system when they are used to coming and going at will.
“The reservation system during Superbowl had another major plus,” Wines says. “Most people elected to stay over that night thinking it would be simpler to get away the next day, but that Monday we had a snowstorm. However, because everyone had an assigned departure slot we were able to schedule the de-icing to coincide with aircraft departures, which is a very effective way of doing things. Normally we can only start de-icing when the CEO or high net worth client actually arrives at the FBO. Because of the system, far from stressing us out, Superbowl was almost a non-event for us despite the large volume in traffic,” Wines notes.
“As a policy our daily staffing levels at our FBO are designed to cope with peak workloads so while we feel the increased pressure on a really busy day, we can still deliver the high quality of service that the customer expects. We have a great relationship with the airport authorities and if things get too congested on our ramp with aircraft departures, for example, the tower will go out of its way to move the aircraft off the ramp to designated holding areas. We handle high volumes very well here at Teterboro,” she concludes.